Nick Name: JoePa
Birthday: December 21, 1926
Died At Age: 85
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Joseph Vincent Paterno
Born in: Brooklyn
Famous as: American Football Player
Spouse/Ex-: Sue Paterno (m. 1962–2012), Suzanne Pohland (m. 1962–2012)
father: Florence de LaSalle Cafiero
mother: Angelo Lafayette Paterno
children: David Paterno, Diana Paterno, Jay Paterno, Mary Kay Paterno, Scott Paterno
Died on: January 22, 2012
place of death: Pennsylvania
U.S. State: New Yorkers
education: Brown University
Who was Joe Paterno?
Joe Paterno was an American football player and coach, whose achievement in the sport is quite legendary. After starting off as a college football player, Joe became the athletic director of the college and then served as the head coach of the famous college football team, ‘Penn State Nittany Lions.’ He remained the head coach of the team for 45 years, during which he helped his team to win a whopping 409 games, which made him the most victorious coach in the history of the ‘National Collegiate Athletic Association FBS.’ During his illustrious coaching career, Joe Paterno won many awards, including ‘Sportsman of the Year’ (1986), ‘Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award’ (1981) (2005), and ‘The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award’ (2005). In 2018, film-maker Barry Levinson came up with a television drama film titled ‘Paterno,’ which revolves around the legendary football coach’s career.
Childhood & Early Life
Joe Paterno was born as Joseph Vincent Paterno on December 21, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. He was born into a family, which traces its roots to Italy. His father Angelo Lafayette Paterno worked as a law clerk, while his mother Florence de LaSalle Cafiero was a homemaker.
Joe attended ‘Brooklyn Preparatory School,’ and graduated in the year 1944. A few days later, he was called upon to serve the Army during the second ‘World War.’ He was relieved from services in 1946, after which he attended ‘Brown University.’
During his college days, Paterno joined the ‘Delta Kappa Epsilon’ fraternity and played as cornerback and quarterback for the college football team, ‘Brown Bears.’ In 1950, he graduated with a major in English literature.
Paterno’s initial aspiration was to join a law school, and was even accepted by the ‘Boston University School of Law.’ However, he changed his mind after his college graduation and chose to coach at ‘Pennsylvania State University.’
In 1950, he joined Rip Engle’s team as an assistant coach and started working closely with the popular head coach. He was promoted in June 1964, when he became the associate coach. In February 1966, Rip Engle announced his retirement, following which Paterno was appointed as the new head coach of the team.
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Two years into his career as the head coach, Paterno coached his team to two undefeated seasons in 1968 and 1969. He coached his way to glory as his team won the 1982 national championship and then repeated the feat in 1986.
After achieving tremendous success as the head coach over the last 29 years, Paterno started making headlines for wrong reasons. In 1995, he directed a tirade of abuses at the head coach of ‘Rutgers Scarlet Knights,’ Doug Graber after one of the nationally televised games. He later apologized to Graber for his ill temper.
Paterno attracted many criticisms when his team failed to perform well from 2000 to 2004. Even the media lashed out at him, attributing the football team’s struggles to his age. Though he was urged by many to step down as the head coach, Paterno failed to give in, stating that he would not retire until his contract expires in 2008.
On May 12, 2005, Paterno announced at ‘Duquesne Club’ in Pittsburgh that he would consider retirement if the team fails to win games during the upcoming season. After his speech in Pittsburgh, Paterno coached his team to a record 11 victories throughout the season, during which his team became the champions of the ‘Big Ten.’
‘Penn State’ continued to perform well as it won against ‘Florida State’ in triple overtime during the 2006 ‘Orange Bowl’ game. During the 2009 season, Paterno surpassed the record set by Amos Alonzo Stagg for being the head coach of the same institution (Division I) for the most number of years.
After his 409th victory as the head coach of ‘Penn State Nittany Lions,’ Paterno was dismissed from the team on November 9, 2011, as he was involved in a child sex abuse scandal. Though Joe Paterno or ‘JoePa,’ as he was lovingly addressed by his players, had his share of controversies at the end of his career, he had done enough to be recognized as one of the legendary football coaches in the history of American football.
On November 5, 2011, former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was working under Joe Paterno, was arrested on 52 counts of child abuse. It was revealed that Sandusky’s act of child sexual abuse occurred from 1994 to 2009, which included incidents inside the ‘Penn State’ campus.
According to the investigation, assistant coach Mike McQueary had informed Paterno about one such incident. According to the statement, McQueary had seen Sandusky abusing a 10-year-old boy in 2001 and had notified Paterno about the same. Paterno then informed his immediate supervisor Tim Curley and later shared the information with Vice President of Finance and Business, Gary Schultz.
However, the matter was not reported to police, which allowed Sandusky to get away with his crime for the next decade or so. Though Paterno was not accused of any wrongdoing, he was criticized for not following up on his report and for his failure to inform the cops about the incident.
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On November 9, 2011, when speculations were rife that Paterno would be dismissed as the head coach of ‘Penn State,’ the 85-year-old coach announced that he would be retiring by the end of the season. Despite his announcement, the Board of Trustees decided to terminate Paterno’s contract. Paterno’s sudden dismissal enraged thousands of students, who took to the streets to protest against the decision taken by the Board of Trustees.
After Paterno’s death, Penn State Board of Trustees hired former FBI director Louis Freeh and his team for a separate investigation into the scandal. After a thorough investigation and research, Freeh and his team concluded by saying that Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier had deliberately concealed Sandusky's actions to protect the integrity of their college football team.
When Freeh’s report was released, Paterno’s name was removed from ‘Joe Paterno Child Development Center,’ located in Beaverton, Oregon. It was also announced that ‘Brown University’ would remove his name from its annual award. Furthermore, Paterno’s statue that stood at the entrance of Penn State’s ‘Beaver Stadium’ was removed on July 22, 2012.
Awards & Achievements
In 1986, Paterno was named the ‘Sportsman of the Year’ by the famous magazine, ‘Sports Illustrated.’ He then won the USSA’s ‘Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award’ on two occasions (1989 and 2001).
He was named the ‘AFCA Coach of the Year’ on five occasions from 1968 to 2005. He became the recipient of the prestigious ‘Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award’ on two occasions (1981 and 2005).
He was named the ‘Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year’ on three occasions from 1978 to 1986. He was then honored with the prestigious ‘George Munger Award’ on three occasions from 1990 to 2005.
In 2005, he was also honored with several other awards, including ‘The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award,’ ‘Dave McClain Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year,’ and ‘Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award.’
Paterno became the first coach to win each of the four major bowls, namely ‘Fiesta,’ ‘Orange,’ ‘Rose,’ and ‘Sugar.’ Under Paterno’s coaching, ‘Penn State’ won two national championships and had a dream run of five undefeated seasons from 1968 to 1994.
His team also won several bowl games, including ‘Cotton Bowl,’ ‘Liberty Bowl,’ ‘Fiesta Bowl,’ ‘Aloha Bowl,’ ‘Citrus Bowl,’ ‘Outback Bowl,’ ‘Holiday Bowl,’ and ‘Alamo Bowl.’ On December 4, 2007, Paterno was inducted into the ‘College Football Hall of Fame.’ In 2009, Paterno was placed 13th in the list of ‘50 greatest coaches of all time,’ released by ‘Sporting News.’
Joe Paterno met Suzanne Pohland when he was serving as the assistant coach. The two got married in 1962 and were blessed with five children, namely Diana, Joseph Jr., Mary, Scott, and David. Paterno co-authored a book titled ‘We Are Penn State,’ along with his wife Suzanne.
He and his wife were also known for their charitable contribution towards various departments and colleges. In 1997, they contributed towards the expansion of the popular ‘Pattee Library’ by raising a whopping $13.5 million.
Death & Legacy
In November 2011, Paterno’s son Scott announced that his father was being diagnosed for a form of lung cancer. Paterno was hospitalized on January 13, 2012 for complications relating to his treatment.
On January 22, 2012, Joe Paterno breathed his last. Post his death tributes were poured in from many prominent leaders from across the States. While former President George H. W. Bush stated that Paterno was a ‘true icon in the world of sports,’ Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett told the reporters that Paterno’s place in the state’s history is secure.
Paterno’s funeral, which was held on January 25, 2012, was attended by thousands of mourners. His mortal remains were buried in ‘Spring Creek Presbyterian Cemetery.’ On January 26, 2012, a public memorial service was held at the ‘Bryce Jordan Center,’ which was attended by nearly 12,000 people.